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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Public speaking should not intimidate you

I read a recent article in the Republic business section about how so many people consider public speaking a terrible ordeal that involves sweaty palms and brows and the sudden inability to speak coherently.

Unfortunately, in the business world, it is possible that somewhere along the line, you may have to address a group; especially if you enter a personality driven profession like sales.

My career was in sales and when I started I met a lot of young guys who would freeze in front of a buying committee if they had to make a presentation and answer questions. I was fortunate because having been in college and the military for four years each, and being a bit older than some of the guys right out of school; I had some public speaking experience.

My first bit of advice on public speaking came from an old master sergeant in the Air Force who saw I was visibly nervous about having to speak to some new recruits concerning how to handle some various duties in supply squadron. He told me that since I was the one with the information that these guys needed and that I had more military experience than they did, THEY should be the ones intimidated. I never forgot that advice and used it throughout a career in sales and when hosting thirty-three episodes of “Scottsdale Showcase” for Scottsdale Community College.

I’ve given that advice many times. It seems so simple. Think about it: You are the knowledgeable one in the room and the audience has come to hear you because they are anticipating learning something. Why should you be intimidated? YOU are the smart one in the room; the audience is at your knee trying to become better informed. If anyone should be intimidated, it is them.

This doesn’t mean that you have a bunch of facts and figures to hand out without having them in a plan. You must be prepared with you text and practice it thoroughly. Speak clearly and never mumble and don’t be afraid to inject a little humor if the subject warrants it. Audiences have a habit of being a tough house sometimes and can lose interest in you in a hurry if you are not diligent.

Also, tailor you presentation to your audience by using terminology that they understand. Stay focused and don’t fall in love with your presentation to the point where people are starting to yawn and shift in their seats. Another good idea is to check out the venue where you will be speaking so you have a “lay of the land.”

Remember: The audience is there to learn from you. You have no reason to be intimidated.

                        Step right up to the mic.  The floor is yours      

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